Russia Arming T-50 (PAK FA) Stealth Fighter with Ineffective Kh-35UE Anti-Ship Missile

By | May 13, 2017 06:16 PM EDT
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Kh-35U anti-ship missile.(Photo : Russian Aerospace Forces)

Russia is upgrading one of its oldest cruise missiles to arm it newest jet, the Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) stealth fighter, but the missile will rob the T-50 of its stealthiness since it can't fit inside the stealth fighter's weapons bay.

Attaching the extended range Zvezda Kh-35UE tactical cruise missile to the T-50's underwing hard points will make the fighter as large as fourth generation fighters on American radar screens, especially those aboard the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters.

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The Russians, however, claim the loss in stealth is offset by the longer stand-off range of the Kh-35UE, which can be launched at U.S. Navy warships from 260 kilometers away. The main problem with this argument is the F-35C operated by the U.S. Navy can destroy a T-50 armed with Kh-35UE missiles from a longer distance.

Western experts also said modern warships equipped with the latest variant of the Aegis Combat System can successfully defend against a Kh-35UE attack. The missile has never been used in combat and its capabilities remain doubtful.

Russian state-controlled media is magnifying the attributes of the Kh-35UE, which is nicknamed "Harpoonski" because it looks like the twin brother of the U.S. Air Force AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. The Kh-35UE is the export version of the basic Kh-35U missile.

Russian media allege the Kh-35UE will transform the T-50 (PAK FA) into a "multi-functional fighting machine." They describe the Kh-35UE as a subsonic, sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile armed with a 145 kg high explosive fragmentation, penetration warhead. The Kh-35UE is designed to sink ships of up to 5,000 tons.

Kh-35UE, the latest variant of the Kh-35U that first entered service with the Russian Navy in 2003, features an improved propulsion system, which doubles the missile's range from 130 km to 260 km.

Russia's Tactical Missile Corporation JSC, which makes the Kh-35UE, said a number of successful tests of the air-to-surface cruise missile on the T-50 (PAK FA) have been completed.

The Kh-35UE can be launched from multiple platforms, including coastal defense missile systems and helicopters. Target acquisition and designation data can be fed into missile's guidance system from both ship-based and external target data sources.

The missile has a low radar cross section thanks to its small dimensions; has a sea-skimming capability and a special guidance algorithm ensuring highly secure operational modes of the active radar seeker.

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